Balloon Basics FAQ
What are the basics needed to start a balloon business?
Congratulations on your decision to enter into the exciting world of balloons! Balloons add joy to any store and are a profitable addition to your business. Whether you plan to sell balloons at a retail location, or will pursue work as a balloon decorator, you will need some basic equipment, including an inflator, a helium regulator, ribbon, weights, and obviously...BALLOONS!
What is a regulator? A regulator is a valve attached to a helium cylinder to dispense helium into balloons. There are several types available, each with different features and benefits.
Proper inflation techniques using regulators are discussed later in this guide.
We strongly suggest using a regulator with an automatic shut-off for foil balloons. The Deluxe model regulator BR74HG features a brass push valve for foil balloons which automatically shuts off when the balloon is properly filled. This is an especially beneficial feature as there is less of a chance that balloons will be lost due to over inflation.
For latex balloons, there is a latex push valve. However, this valve DOES NOT automatically shut off for latex balloons. Please see the latex section of this guide for proper inflation techniques. The latex valve should NOT be used to inflate foil balloons, as it could damage the self-sealing valve.
Other features of the BR74HG are a gauge which indicates the amount of helium in the cylinder, a ribbon cutter, and a disc tie post, which is used with sealing discs for latex.
101GS is a basic rubber tilt valve inflator, which does not provide an automatic shut-off. The tilt valve is designed to inflate latex balloons. To inflate foil balloons with this inflator, the brass foil tip that is included with the regulator must be placed in the black rubber tilt valve. Both inflators are ideal for rentals and feature hand tight connections, ribbon cutters, and disc tie posts. 101GS also includes a gauge.
Additional accessories are available which are used in conjunction with a helium tank and offer even more conveniences.
The portable helium transfiller TR1 is used to transfer helium from a large cylinder to small cylinders. Renting small helium cylinders and regulators to your customers is another way to expand your business.
Helpful Hint Never use a black rubber tilt valve to inflate foil balloons. The tilt valve can damage the self-sealing valve of foil balloons and cause a slow leak.
Why are balloon weights so critical? Balloon weights should be a critical component of any balloon that leaves your shop. Properly weighted helium balloons prevent balloons from being accidentally released. In the case of foil balloons, ensuring against accidental release can help prevent costly and troublesome power outages that may result from foil balloons getting tangled in power lines. Weights come in many sizes, shapes and colors. The most important concern is making sure that you choose the proper size weight for the balloon(s) you are trying to secure. (See chart for recommended weights) If a cluster of balloons is sold, each individual balloon should have a weight. Balloon weights can be purchased or made from any item heavy enough to weigh down a balloon-baskets, mugs, and gift totes make excellent weights
What is Hi-Float? Hi Float is a proprietary solution that is used to coat the inside of a latex balloon to seal the microscopic pores in the balloon to reduce helium leakage. A balloon that has been properly treated with Hi-Float can last up to 20 time longer than a non-treated balloon.
What are Bubble Balloons? Bubbles are made of see-through, stretchy plastic, and represent an entirely new category of balloons. They inflate with smooth, wrinkle-free seams like a beach ball and look great from every angle. They last for weeks, so You can inflate them ahead of time for busy holidays like Valentines Day or Mother's Day! And, because they last weeks longer than latex, you can provide your customers a long lasting, cost-effective balloon. Additionally, because Bubbles contain no latex, they never oxidize and are non-allergenic.
What's new in foil balloons? Sing-a-tunes and recordable balloons! These oversized foil balloons use a revolutionary new technology to add sound to balloons including popular music, character voices and sound effects. Some balloons even have a tiny voice recorder inside to allow for the recording of personalized messages from the customer.
What are the smaller foil balloons? Foil balloons are also available in 2", 4" & 9" round shapes and 5", & 9"-14" shapes. These mini foil balloons are designed to be filled with air, heat sealed with a heat sealer, and attached to a plastic cup and stick.
They may be purchased pre-inflated (air-filled) which means that they have already been filled with air, sealed, and include a cup and stick. Assortments are available with or without displays or certain styles can be purchased by individual stock numbers. Purchasing pre-inflated balloons save labor, but has a higher shipping cost, and requires more room for inventory storage.
When mini foil balloons are purchased flat, an electric air inflator is required for inflation. Please note that foil balloons smaller than 18" should only be inflated with air since smaller sizes will not float with helium.
We recommend an electric air inflator such as the Mini Cool Aire® Pro Inflator 831. This inflator has several nozzles to use depending on the size of the balloons, and comes with a heavy-duty handle for easy carrying. It also will run continuously without over heating.
An electric heat sealer is needed, since the balloons do not have self-sealing valves. HS870 is 12" a model which allows more room to seal and can also be used to seal plastic bags. Curling irons, clothing irons, and other household appliances are not recommended for use in sealing balloons. Such appliances do not seal properly and can burn through the balloon stem or possibly cause serious burns.
How to Use a Heat Sealer
After inflating the foil balloon, firmly hold the stem in one hand so the air cannot escape. Use your other hand to flatten the balloon stem. The stem should be free of wrinkles and creases. The heat sealer control should be set at position 2.5. If this seems too hot, set it lower.
Position the flattened stem under the upper bar of the heat sealer so that the seal will be made just above the opening in the stem. Press the bar down and hold for 4-5 seconds after the red light has gone out to ensure proper sealing, then release the upper bar.
A second seal below the first seal is best since any wrinkles or creases in the first seal will allow the air to leak out.
The pad protecting the element will wear thin after much use. When replacing with a new pad, also replace the element. Unplug the heat sealer before replacing pad and element.
After inflating and sealing mini foil balloons, they can then be attached to a cup and stick, which are purchased separately. The type of cup and stick to use will depend on the size of the balloon and its end use.
Below are some of the cups available to use for mounting mini foil balloons. The instructions for all cups are very similar in that they all involve twisting the stem of the balloon and then pulling it through an opening while weaving over and under and tucking the end of the stem under a clip or under the balloon.
Cello Cups CC101 Use with 4"-14" balloons. Connect to wooden dowel sticks or hollow plastic sticks of desired length. Fits wooden dowel stick WDS16 and WDS18.
After sealing the mini foil, tightly twist the stem about ten times. With the Cello Cup™ upside down, hold the mini foil balloon upside down and pull the stem up through the first slot marked by an arrow. It helps to place your finger over this first slot to prevent the balloon stem from slipping as you proceed.
Wrap the exposed neck across the next slot in the direction of the arrow, then pull the stem down through that slot.
Pull the stem across the underside of the cup to the next slot, then pull the stem up through that slot resembling a "weaving" action.
Pull the stem across the top of the cup to the first slot and pull the stem down through it. This results in an over-under weaving action. Be sure to pull the stem tight at the beginning so that the balloon will sit securely in the cup. Pull the stem tight at the remaining stem and continue the over-under weaving action until the stem is hidden. The cup can then be attached to a stick.
With slight variations, these directions can also be applied to the cups listed next.
Mini Micro™ II Cups CC104 Use with 9" mini foil balloons. Connect to hollow plastic sticks of desired length*
Foil Cups & Sticks 16 This case comes complete with 1000 cups and 1000 12.5" sticks. Use with 9" mini foil balloons.
Cup-N-Sticks® CS10W This one-piece design is available in white and is used with 2" & 4" mini foil balloons
Where do I get helium? Helium is a colorless, non-toxic, non-flammable gas that is lighter than air. When balloons are filled with helium, they will float.
Helium can be obtained from a local industrial gas supplier. Check your telephone directory for listings.
Many different sized cylinders are available. In addition to the cost of the helium itself, some suppliers charge a monthly fee for the cylinder and require a security deposit.
You should also ask about delivery charges and whether or not a regulator is included with the cylinder. Regulators are discussed in detail in another section.
Helium Safety & Precautions
DO NOT inhale helium. While helium is a relatively safe gas, direct inhalation can cause dizziness, fainting, suffocation, and possibly death.
DO NOT leave cylinders unattended in a public area.
DO NOT open the cylinder valve before attaching an inflator to it.
Store cylinders in a secured, upright position where they will not accidentally fall. Cylinders should be chained to a wall or placed on a safety stand at all times.
Close the cylinder valve after each use and when the cylinder is empty.
When transporting cylinders, always close the cylinder valve, remove the regulator, and replace the valve cap.
Open cylinder valves slowly and stand to one side of the cylinder when opening cylinder valves. Never stand directly in front of the cylinder valve.
Never use a damaged cylinder or regulator.
Helpful Hint Keep outdoor conditions in mind when inflating balloons with helium. Helium is hot and cold sensitive and will expand or contract in extreme temperatures.
For example, a balloon inflated in a warm room and taken outside to very cold condition will seem to lose helium. But when the balloon is returned to normal temperatures it will expand back to its original shape.
The opposite is true in hot weather conditions. If a balloon is inflated to the maximum and taken outside to very hot conditions, it could burst from the expansion of the air inside the balloon.
Handle With Care Helium is stored in highly pressurized cylinders ranging from 1800-2400 pounds per square inch. A ruptured helium cylinder can be compared to a missile or the equivalent of two pounds of TNT.
How do altitude and temperature affect balloons? Some foil balloons will not float in high altitudes. If you are located in a high altitude area, please consider the following when ordering foil balloons:
Balloons that are 21" or larger are more likely than 18" to float in high altitudes.
18" balloons that have detailed designs use more ink, which may cause the balloon to be heavier and less likely to float in a high altitude. This is also true for all two-sided, 18" balloons.
18", round-shaped balloons generally float better than heart, star, or other shaped balloons.
Also, keep in mind that balloon weights and ribbons attached to balloons can affect the floating ability in high-altitude areas.
Temperature can also have a effect on foil or latex balloons. Warm air expands. If you fill a balloon with helium to its maximum capacity, then take that balloon outdoors on a very hot day or place it in a hot car, the air inside of the balloon can expand and burst the balloon. The same principle can work in reverse. Bring a hot balloon inside to a very cool, air conditioned room, and the air in the balloon will condense and get heavier, causing the balloon to "shrink" and "sag" (not float as well). Always keep extreme temperatures in mind when dealing with balloons, whether air filled or helium filled.
If I'm just starting out, what combination of messages, themes / holiday balloons should I carry? Great question! While it is somewhat dependant on the demographics of your area, some items are consistently good sellers. Always have Happy Birthday on hand as this will be your most requested balloon. We recommend an General Message Assortment (product # 10279) that has Get Well Soon, It's a Boy/Girl, Good Luck, I Love You, Happy Birthday, and many more popular messages. Also remember important balloon holidays like Valentines Day and Mother's Day. Order early to make sure you have balloons on hand when the rush hits.
What is the best way to display balloons? Balloons have to be seen to be sold! Have balloons out and inflated and ready for purchase. Foil balloons when inflated with helium will last for weeks, and can be "topped-off" with more helium if they start to sag. A balloon that is inflated and has a ribbon attached makes a great impulse item or add on sale. We carry various display stands and corrals to help you merchandise your balloons. Call and speak with one of our customer representatives to help find the solution that best meets your needs.
What are Glue Dots? As one industry professional was heard to say at one of our seminars, "Glue Dots changed my life!" Glue Dots (product # 30006) are wonderful little pressure sensitive dots of adhesive that can be used in floral design, gift basket design, or numerous other applications. Additionally, we offer floral specific spray adhesives and glues that give your designs a professional look.